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"It's powerful stuff. It's hugely rewarding. The job is tough, but you see that they want to change. They want to go out and help others."
Houston, 29, started smoking marijuana when he was 12. Two years later he was smoking it with his mother. He was selling "weed" by the time he was in junior high, then using and selling harder drugs in high school.
Helping others is part of Houston's plan. He has already started taking courses at Minnesota State University to become a drug counselor. He will start going to college full time in the fall.
Houston will be one of two people graduating Monday from the county's Drug Court. Ten people have completed the program, which was started in 2005. A $450,000 federal grant and $150,000 state grant have helped fund the program, which is only open to drug offenders who don't have violent crimes on their record.
"This is it. It's over," he said he was thinking at the time. "I I had no doubt in my mind I was going back to prison again. I started getting my mind set for prison. I was ready to do my time."
is capable of, he will have a successful future, said Matt Peterson, one of the Mankato company's roofing managers. He hired Houston and has watched him change as he's worked his way through Drug Court.
"We're developing together, working together as a district," he said.
John Houston has a lot in common with most of the guys on his Mankato softball team.
"In my opinion, if it can make one person a successful member of society, it's all worth it," Mauer said. "There's been some successes and some relapses. But, like any program that's new, it takes time."
"I like taking a person who has made some mistakes and being able to help out," Peterson said. "Whenever you can help someone, they become very loyal and he is a loyal employee. It's a very good situation of both of us."
the program in 2006. Eight graduated. An evaluation presented to the Blue Earth County Board recently said the program has been successful in its goals of reducing crime, reducing drug abuse for its graduates, reducing out of home placements for children and improving the lives of graduates.
Kevin Mettler, Drug Court coordinator, said the program will continue to evolve. Some of the improvements suggested in the evaluation will be addressed by combining resources with other counties in the area that have started their own drug courts, including Nicollet, Watonwan, Brown, Faribault and Martin counties.
"I got out in April and was high by May," he said. "That was my life. I didn't know how to work a job. on July 15, 2005, with changing his life. After being pulled over by a state trooper while driving a car without a bumper on Thompson Ravine Road in Mankato, he was arrested for suspicion of drug dealing because he had 10 grams of methamphetamine, 30 grams of marijuana and $754 in cash in his possession.
It's been amazing to watch the people who have succeeded evolve from being jail prisoners to productive members of the community, Mettler added. Most of them have no money and only a bag full of dirty clothes when they start the program. They've spent months, or even years, going from couch to couch or car to car because Nike Jackets Womens White
Among the changes suggested were providing more time for staff members to decide sanctions for people who violate Drug Court requirements, more support for Drug Court graduates and a better understanding of minorities who participate. In 2005, the first year of Drug Court, 80 percent of the people terminated from the program were minorities. In 2006, all three of the people who had their court sentences executed instead of being allowed to finish the program were female, the report said.
the drugs they are using have made them paranoid.
The program has been worth the time and expense from members of Blue Earth County's probation officers, law enforcement officers, county attorneys, public defenders and social workers, said Chief Deputy Mike Mauer of the Blue Earth County Sheriff's Department.
"All of that is true," Mettler said. "Now they're going to college, able to buy clothes and having normal conversations with their probation officers that have nothing to do with their cases.
Houston said he's thankful Peterson gave him a chance. Houston has moved around most of his life and has never had an opportunity to start long term friendships with people. He said that's changing now that he's developed relationships with others in Drug Court, at work and with the guys on his softball team.
A Drug Court success
From 1996 to 1997, the first year after he graduated, he was arrested for four or five felonies. Houston eventually served two prison terms in Virginia, getting released from his second stint behind bars in April 2004. That's when he moved to Belle Plaine and started getting high again.
If his work at Schwickert's Inc. for the past 18 months is an indication of what Houston Nike Sports Tracksuit
The evaluation also said changes are needed.
In other ways the differences between Houston and his teammates are striking. Like the difference between a breath of fresh air and a hit off a glass pipe packed with methamphetamine. Or, more appropriately now, a grass covered softball field under the lights at Mankato's Jaycees Park and the dusty diamond behind the walls of a Virginia prison.
Then he found out about Blue Earth County's Drug Court program.
He works a demanding job during the day, installing roofs and doing other work for a local roofing company. At night, when he wants to relax, he watches sports on television or plays an occasional game of poker with his friends.
Athletics have always been one of the pleasures in his life, even in prison, but he said he never wants to go back to playing softball on a dusty prison field. "I think Drug Court has changed my life," he said. "It didn't get me clean and into recovery, but Nike Jackets Basketball it gave me the tools I needed to do that. Without Drug Court, I wouldn't be here today."
The program has saved the county thousands of dollars in incarceration costs by having drug offenders in a treatment program instead of jail, he added. It's more difficult to determine how much money has been saved because the people who are participating in drug court are not out on the streets committing more crimes.
As Houston progressed, it became clear he wasn't going to be a roofer for the rest of his life, Peterson said. But it's been worth the investment Schwickert's made training him because Peterson believes Houston will help improve the community, as a whole, after he moves on.
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